Nairobi and Masai Mara

Giraffes during the sunset safari at Masai Mara

Nairobi has become our major hub during the East-Africa trip. Since there are a number of budget carriers located in Kenya, getting around this part of the continent is quite affordable. For instance, we did manage to buy our tickets for the Entebbe to Nairobi flight during a transit stop on our previous flight going from Addis Ababa to Kigali through Nairobi. The transit time of that flight was six hours, giving us enough time to check out various ticket desks while transferring in Kenya. Continue reading “Nairobi and Masai Mara”

Sleeping policemen in Murchinson Falls National Park

African globe

Our land border crossing on the road from Kigali (Rwanda) to Kampala (Uganda) was easier than anticipated. The ceremony of getting processed at customs resembled some South American crossings during my recent trip there: Getting off the local bus, filling out immigration forms no one ever reads, queuing to get the exit stamp in the passport, walk about 500 meters across the border, filling out again customs forms that no one ever reads, bribing my way through the queuing crowd, getting the entry stamp and – finally board the bus again. All in all, this process took Evgeny, Tatjana and me about one hour. We then arrived a few hours later – notably after crossing the Equator – in Uganda’s busy capital city, Kampala. Continue reading “Sleeping policemen in Murchinson Falls National Park”

Smuggling plastic bags to Kigali

Local transport in Rwanda

One of the surprises for this trip was presented to me by Evgeny just before we left Moscow: We would visit four instead of two countries in East Africa. So I came pretty unprepared to Rwanda. Evgeny’s Lonely Planet guidebook served me to have a quick glimpse at visa procedures which seemed to be no problem at all. Like most other African countries, Rwanda also grants the so-called “visa on arrival” at the airport. What the book left out though, was the fact that these procedures had changed since it went to print. Continue reading “Smuggling plastic bags to Kigali”

Lalibela and my soul to keep

Church of St. George, Lalibela

Having read the excellent sci-fi novel “My Soul To Keep” by Tananarive Due, I was familiar with the town of Lalibela which featured as “the city of priests and rock-hewn churches” in the story. As much as I had trouble to stop reading this great novel, I found it difficult to leave the “holiest town of Ethiopia” after the visit.

Almost forgetting to feed ourselves, we pivoted between rock-hewn churches, the market and our guest house. Lalibela was planned to mark the grand finale of the Ethiopian trip. And it lived up to our expectations. Continue reading “Lalibela and my soul to keep”

De-Birring tourists at the rock-hewn churches of Tigray

Derg monument in Mekele

A visit to the Tigray region, in the northern part of Ethiopia is a must for any visitor on the historic circuit through this country. This region is bordering Eritrea and Sudan.

Although the travel advisory of the Swiss government did warn about visits to this area, Evgeny and I found it to be very safe here. Maybe we were just ignorant and lucky, since we spotted numerous abandoned, rusty tanks next to the streets and a number of locals were carrying rifles.

The reason to see to this province are the amazing rock-hewn churches, which are scattered in several clusters over an area of 50’000 square kilometers. Each cluster has a name, such as Gheralta, Tkatisfi, Atsbi, Tembien and Wukro. Dating back to the 8th century, these churches sometimes feature Aksumite relics that were incorporated in the Christian structure. Looking much the same as the design of the obelisks in Aksum, the architecture of these churches is very unique.

Continue reading “De-Birring tourists at the rock-hewn churches of Tigray”

Dawn at high noon in Aksum

Simien Mountains

Still confused about the last posting about traveling back in time using the Ethiopian calendar? Well, then let me stir a bit more the possum: Ethiopia uses a 12-hour clock system. The first cycle is from dawn to dusk, the second one dusk to dawn.

This means, that the start of the day is dawn (not midnight). Consequently, 7:00am on a tourists’ watch corresponds to 1:00 in daylight hours in local Ethiopian time. Noon becomes 6:00 in daylight hours, and 7:00pm becomes 1:00 in evening/night hours. Continue reading “Dawn at high noon in Aksum”

Sins and punishment in Gondar

Trees at Fasiladas Bath

A journey through Ethiopia means traveling back in time. For example, the date of May 1st 2009 becomes actually August 23th, 2001 in the Ethiopian calendar, which has thirteen months. Twelve of them have 30 days each, the thirteenth month has five days (respectively six days on leap years which occur every four years without exception). There are several other facts that involve the calendar date calculation, which is much better explained in this Wikipedia entry. Continue reading “Sins and punishment in Gondar”

On the fast lane at Bahir Dar and Lake Tana

On the Lake Tana

Africa is another beast of travel – technology-wise. Either the Internet connections were painfully slow, computers were not functioning – or in most of the cases – there was simply no electricity at times. This is why I am posting the articles about the journey through East Africa a bit late.

My Russian friend Evgeny, whom I met back in Patagonia, did invite me to join his “expedition” through various countries on the Africa continent. Together with another Russian friend, Tatjana, we did meet in Moscow to prepare for this trip. Our flight would take us from Moscow to Addis Ababa, having a change of plane and a longer transit stay at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

Although the plane ride was quite uneventful, we were shocked about the prices in the “Food Court” of the transit area at Istanbul airport. A small Döner and two beers did set us back with over 35 US dollars – each! Triggered by this excessive pricing, we started to look closer at the duty free shops of that airport. We were amazed how many people would buy mostly overpriced items in these “duty free” stores. Continue reading “On the fast lane at Bahir Dar and Lake Tana”